Distracted Living

…[L]et us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1b-2 NIV)

Much has been written about the difficulty of paying focused attention in today’s ultra-connected world. Distraction has negatively affected people’s work, leisure, parenting, and relationships. But I had never thought about how it affects Christians’ ability to tell people about our faith.

What brought that to mind was an excellent piece by O. Alan Noble, “How to Witness to a Distracted World.” Noble points out that human beings have never loved being introspective—feeling convicted by the Holy Spirit isn’t fun, after all—but modern technology has made it possible to actually be distracted all the time.

The amount of content, the speed, accessibility, quality, cost—everything has worked to make it harder and harder not to be distracted. … This raises an important question for Christians: How do we bear witness to our faith to people whose default is to avoid reflection and contemplation, the very things that are important to recognize our sin and need for Christ?

I’m as guilty of seeking distraction as anyone. When I just want to make it through the day until the kids’ bedtime, it can feel like blessed relief to get a few minutes on Twitter. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with zoning out now and then. But silence, contemplation, and time with God are critical components of practicing the religion we profess, and all are becoming harder to find. The idea of adding on evangelism feels overwhelming—especially when, as Noble writes,

A disruptive witness is not an evangelism method that can be rehearsed, memorized, and deployed strategically. I have no training resources for your church to buy. Rather than a system, a disruptive witness involves creating the conditions under which our neighbors are more likely to clearly hear the truth of the gospel for what it is.

Then I thought of a quote from St. Irenaeus: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Doesn’t that sound amazing? Suddenly I feel like I have something I can offer the world that’s worth offering, that people might really want. Fully alive sounds to me like someone who has plenty of mental space to give my attention to what matters most to me, including the people around me. It sounds like knowing where my priorities are and living them out, pursuing what I want most.

The antidote to pointless distraction is purpose, direction, focus. It won’t work all the time, but I find I am much more able to purposely direct my attention when I feel confident of what I’m directing it toward. Paul exhorts us to “throw off” our dependence on Twitter—all right, he said “everything that hinders”—and instead “fix our eyes on Jesus.” When we put Jesus first in our lives, we can be focused and alive. That state of being will not only make Jesus more attractive to our neighbors—it also makes us better able to tell them how to find him.

Abigail’s email address is in the directory.

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